Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A New Message and Ethic Needed to Challenge Trumpism

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat It is hard these days to wake up and not feel some degree of nausea and shame about being an American.  How do we live with the just the idea of a president who lies on a regular basis and seems to be  the only one in his administration who disbelieves that the Russians meddled in our election. Place on top of this ugly reality his withdrawal from the Paris Climate accords and , his cruel efforts to take health care away from between 12 to 16 million people and you end up with what can be loosely termed a "hot mess."This is without even considering the Muller investigation which the closer it gets to implicating Trump's inner circle in colluding with the Russian government to steal the election the more the president lashes out and attempts to obstruct justice.

How did we find ourselves at this awful historical moment and how do we move beyond it are two fundamental questions we cannot avoid asking, Naomi Klein provides some answers in her latest book No is Not Enough. In it she argues that “Trump is not a rupture at all, but rather the culmination — the logical endpoint — of a great many dangerous stories our culture has been telling for a very long time...That greed is good. That the market rules. That money is what matters in life. That white men are better than the rest. That the natural world is there for us to pillage. That the vulnerable deserve their fate and the one percent deserve their golden towers. That anything public or commonly held is sinister and not worth protecting. That we are surrounded by danger and should only look after our own.”

While Klein has found some compelling words to explain why a narcissistic billionaire maybe driving us all off a potential cliff. but does not give us any robust sense of hope that we can eject him from the driver's seat any time soon. Klein's
"solution" if that is the right word seems to be a feel good one--the left has to "pull together" and not divide up into "silo interest groups".  “The trick is going to be to stick together, and have each other’s backs as never before.” Really? A set of cliches that might be good to share with a set of nervous teenagers who are anxious about the future--but is this a real plan--does this suggest really in the words of her title that "No is Not Enough"?

To really beat Trump the left needs not just an emotional kumbaya moment but a real plan. We cannot simply rely on the fact that Trump's national poll numbers are down to historic low of 36 percent, we need to keep in mind that according to Gallup in 17 states Trump is 50 percent or higher job approval ratings. While the beginnings of the democrats fight back are evident in their latest "A Better Deal" message that was announced to very little mainstream press news coverage on July 24th, it fell short of what is required in several ways and was immediately panned by the wildly popular Morning Joe show as "bland" and "vanilla. The New Republic rightly saw a basic contradiction at the heart of the document in that while there is a recognition that the economy is rigged against the middle class, it expects the American worker to pull himself up by his bootstraps and get the training he or she needs to seek higher wage jobs. The new democrats proclaim that their "better deal is not about expanding the government." As Bustos et al (for CNN) commented " That position betrays a continued acceptance by Democrats of a decades long Republican talking point that demonizes government, adopts the idea that taxes are too high and puts blind faith in the "free market."


It is past time to remind people that big government got us out of the 1930s depression, won the second world war, built the national highway system, got us to the moon, developed the prototype for the internet and GPS. Big government is managed by annual appropriations bills that have to be scrutinized by Congress. To demonize big government to essentially give up on democracy and decide that it is too challenging to put controls on it that reflects the national interest. To really begin to respond to the demands of a global economy and the need to create secure middle class jobs democrats should set out a plan that requires government to be a partner in the need to create a green economy. The dems should be honest in setting out the stakes and that the GOP alternative is to place the nation's wealth in fewer and fewer hands--as the one perccnt squeeze the middle class even further in their pursuit of ever more gargantuan profits. We must in short replace a wildly out of control individualistic ethic that would strip health care from tens of millions of people because they want younger people to be "free" not to pay into health care, with a communitarian one that accepts the mutual obligations of each generation to contribute to the national good.
Senator Elizabeth Warren said it well "there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody…Part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” For the last two to three decades there has been very little paying forward and a lot more concentration of wealth in a few hands.

The democrats' challenge will not be easy. They are badly in need of a leader who will speak from the heart and who will not shy away from words like "opportunity", "fairness" and even terms like "economic justice." Democrats will need to have the confidence of their convictions and lean on their talented friends in Hollywood and Madison Avenue to come up with the words, video and music that can help convey the message. Some will argue that until they do get the messenger a new Barack Obama, Bill Clinton or JFK that the democrats new message will not be able to break through. There is some truth to that point --charismatic leaders do have their often decisive role to play but the Trump emergency means we cannot wait around and hope that the man or woman on the white horse will show up. There is plenty of talent that is already there in the democratic party. That talent is more likely to emerge once the old guard--- Nancy Pelosis, Steny Hoyers and Chuck Schumers (all in their seventh decade) decide that is in the long term interest of the party and the country for them to step aside.

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